THE WCS Zoological Health Program runs one of the only zoo-based Molecular Diagnostics Programs in the world. Since its establishment in 2007 at our flagship Bronx Zoo, we have been performing in-house DNA and RNA-based disease screening, pathogen discovery, and species identification to diagnose illnesses in our zoo and aquarium animals and provide tools that benefit our local and international field conservation projects. Our past and current work includes the discovery of more than a dozen new viruses and bacteria in exotic birds, mammals and reptiles; studies to find the wild animal carriers of canine distemper virus (CDV) that threaten wild Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East; identification of viruses that circulate in wild populations of gorillas and chimpanzees in the Republic of Congo; and descriptions of several new herpesviruses and mycoplasma in endangered turtles. We’ve also pioneered the use of cutting edge portable molecular technologies and built a mobile lab that we’ve deployed to Peru, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia to search for diseases of conservation concern like amphibian chytrid fungus; to find the last remaining critically endangered Yangtze giant soft-shelled turtles; to establish health status or identify disease in recovery and reintroduction projects; and to identify illegally trafficked wildlife and wildlife products.
This Science Line interview describes how Dr Tracie Seimon came to develop our innovative molecular program:
Finding Unseen Threats to Rescue Unseen Wildlife - An unconventional journey leads a scientist to a new conservation tool: environmental DNA
Learn more about our projects here:
Recent Media on Our Molecular Work: